Can I sell a stolen, lost, barred, or blocked mobile phone?

There's almost always a mobile phone recycler out there who will buy or accept your old mobile phone… with one big exception. Most of them will never accept a phone that has a dodgy history.

When you sell your old mobile to a phone recycler, they’ll perform a series of checks on it to make sure it isn’t lost, stolen, network barred, or blocked.

  • If it’s network barred - they won’t buy it.
  • If it’s blocked - they won’t buy it.
  • If it’s reported as lost - they won’t buy it.
  • If it’s reported as stolen - they won’t buy it. And they’ll inform the police.

So in other words… You can’t sell a phone you’ve reported as stolen. You can’t sell a phone you just find in the street. And, uh, you can’t steal a phone and then sell it to a recycler. In fact, it’d count as an illegal sale. 

Here at CompareMyMobile, we don’t like thieves, and neither do the recycling companies, and they’ll work with the police if they suspect something dodgy is going on.

It’s illegal to sell a lost or stolen phone, so recyclers are duty-bound to cooperate with law enforcement here. Only ever sell a gadget that is truly yours to sell.

What happens if a recycler gets a lost or stolen phone?

Exactly what happens will depend on the recycler, and on whether the phone was reported lost or stolen. But here’s a general idea of what to expect:

  • The recycler will tell you what’s up, probably via email.
  • And they’ll keep hold of your phone for the time being until the matter is resolved.
  • If it's a simple mistake, you'll have the chance to contact your network to revoke the bar, or report that the phone has been found.
  • If it doesn't get resolved, on the other hand, the recycler will inform the police.
  • The police will investigate the matter. Expect a phone call or two.

How do they know the phone is lost or stolen?

Every phone has a unique 15-digit IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number - it’s used to identify your device and to connect it to a mobile network. It’s also used to insure a phone, bar it from networks, block it from being used, and report it as lost or stolen.

It’s easy to find out a mobile’s IMEI, so recyclers will enter it into a service like CheckMEND, which performs all kinds of checks. CheckMEND tells them whether it’s blocked, lost, stolen, counterfeit, already recycled, and whether there’s an insurance claim on it, along with all kinds of other info.

You can give it a go yourself for a small fee, actually - go to

But it’s MY phone! I’m the one who reported it as stolen!

Lost your phone, reported it, then found it again? That’s fine, you can still sell it on. Just call up the same number you used to report it - as well as your network’s customer service - and tell them you’ve found it again and all is well. They’ll perform some security checks to make sure you’re who you say you are, and it may take a few days for everything to right itself again.

Make sure you do this before you try and sell it to a recycler, though.

Quick tips to protect against theft

You don’t want your shiny new mobile getting stolen. Here are a few things you can do to protect it from theft - and make sure criminals can’t get their hands on your personal info.

1. Don’t leave it in a car

This is one of the most common ways that phones get stolen: from thieves spotting your mobile in a car and grabbing it. Always keep your phone hidden and out of sight, whether it’s in a car, on a table in the pub, or anywhere else in public.

2. Get insurance

It can get very expensive if your phone is lost, stolen, or even just broken. Always get it insured, including against theft - then if something does happen to it, you’ll only pay a fraction of the cost.

3. Register your phone with the right apps

There are plenty of apps and services that will help you track your phone, get it reported, and delete your data should it get lost or stolen.

  • On an iPhone, enable ‘Find my phone’ on your Apple account
  • On an Android, enable Android Device Manager
  • Register your phone with, the UK National Property Register
  • Download a protective app like Cerberus, Prey, or Lookout

4. Lock it up with secure passwords

Always, always set up fingerprint ID or a lock screen password - and make it a complicated one. 1234 or 0000 just won’t cut it.

And if certain apps, such as your email, let you set up an extra level of security - such as another password every time you try and access it - do so. Lock that info down.